By Frank Schwab
Posted April 5th 2019
The Cleveland Browns are collecting more talent this offseason, but one of their talented players wants out.
Running back Duke Johnson has officially requested a trade, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Johnson was a no-show at the start of the Browns’ offseason program on Monday, Cabot wrote.
Johnson presumably was going to have his playing time squeezed with the addition of Kareem Hunt to the Browns’ backfield. With that, a very good player could be available in a trade, but it doesn’t seem Cleveland will be giving him away.
Who is interested in Duke Johnson?
Cabot wrote the Jets, Texans and Eagles have expressed interest in trading for Johnson since the Browns signed Hunt.
Any team that lands Johnson is getting a fantastic receiver out of the backfield who was probably underutilized by Cleveland through his career, despite the team signing him to a three-year, $15.6 million deal. Johnson has 235 catches for 2,170 receiving yards over his four-year career. He wasn’t used much on handoffs, but had a healthy 4.7-yard average over his last three seasons.
In a pass-heavy NFL, Johnson has plenty of value. Cabot listed those three teams, but presumably others will be calling Cleveland.
Browns don’t have to trade Johnson
The Browns could use Johnson, even with Nick Chubb and Hunt. Hunt is suspended eight games to start the season. Johnson fills an important role and does it well.
Of course, just because Johnson has requested a trade doesn’t mean the Browns have to deal him. Johnson is just one year into his deal. Cabot wrote that the Browns are holding out for a high draft pick for Johnson.
“I don’t know why it’s assumed that we’re going to trade Duke Johnson” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said at the owners’ meetings last month, via Cabot. “I don’t know why we would ever want to, like, just voluntarily give up a good football player. Duke Johnson is a good football player.”
The Browns’ phones should be busy before the draft. We’ll see if they deal Johnson, or if they call his bluff and force him to report.